I was a privileged youth. I studied at a college in London which had a jazz club that presented the very best of contemporary British jazz – live. Not easy to find these days.
What I saw changed my life. This was no ordinary jazz club. I heard close-up the Don Rendell-Ian Carr Quintet with Michael Garrick on piano, the Mike Westbrook Band and many others. It was uplifting and inspiring music then and now, thirty five years later, it has been ‘re-discovered’ and re-released on CD.
The next step from that north London College was the journey south-west across London to the Bull’s Head in Barnes. There you could find live, high quality jazz every single night of the week. The club is still going strong today. It was at the Bull’s Head on one memorable hot summer evening that I saw Tubby Hayes play. This was intense and emotional music that made a lasting impression on me.
It was a long time before I came to present jazz on ICR. Along the way, I absorbed and enjoyed other musical styles including reggae, soca, soukous and salsa; but jazz has always been there. For me, there are links to the spirit of jazz in all these musical forms.
I’ve been with ICR since the very first broadcast. I co-presented Global Beats – which included jazz – but the new Cosmic Jazz format is particularly exciting. We have a solid jazz base but we’ll play any music that – for us – has a jazz sensibility. When we get the selections right – and we often do! – the mix is exhilarating. Check out the playlists on this website for more info.
We’re also part of the local jazz community, publicising the local jazz scene, playing the music of local musicians and welcoming into the studio guests whose knowledge and enthusiasm has brought new joys to our ears. It was Pete, one of those guests, who introduced us to Kira Neris and it has been Jacob who has kept us up-to-date with the continually emerging and exciting Japanese jazz scene. But we’re outernational too – welcoming listeners from around the world – and maybe beyond…
Neil has been listening to jazz for as long as he can remember.
As they say, this is his story…
In 1973 I went for an interview in Oxford. I had some time to spare while waiting for a train and so I dropped into a local record store. Flicking through the jazz racks, I saw this sleeve.
Bitches Brew by Miles Davis.
I teased the sleeve out of its plastic wallet. A gatefold. Inside was an essay by Ralph J Gleason and a great colour shot of Miles. Back to the front cover. Right at the top it said “Direction in Music by Miles Davis.” And it was a double.
That cover – by Mati Klarwein – was clearly by the same artist as had provided the inspired cover for Santana’s Abraxas album, also released in 1970. Inside the gatefold was a list of the performers – Wayne Shorter on soprano sax (my favourite sound at the time), Joe Zawinul on electric piano, Bennie Maupin on bass clarinet, Billy Cobham on drums – and another photo of Miles. I had no idea what it would sound like – but I knew it would be my sound. Bitches Brew wasn’t the first jazz record I’d bought, but it was the best looking.
Thirty five years later, I still know each twist and turn on every track. Miles Davis is still the coolest man on the planet and I’ve had half a lifetime of listening to the greatest musical gift of the 20th century.
It’s claimed that Picasso once said “art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” Duke Ellington called Miles Davis “the Picasso of jazz.” Go figure.